Lady Blue Devils blank Happy Valley

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   ERWIN--Baseball City was outshined on the softball diamond Thursday afternoon.
   With arguably the top two squads in the Watauga Conference battling it out in their first contest of the season, the Unicoi County Lady Devils used a solid all-around performance to get past the Happy Valley Lady Warriors 5-0 on the Lady Devil Diamond.
   "They've got a real good ballclub," said Unicoi County head coach Charlie Baxter. "I expected it to be a close game. They've continually improved and we expected them to come in and battle like they did."
   The Lady Devils worked behind a one-hitter from Beth Haun and an array of offense from Danielle Huskins and Elizabeth Weaver.
   Happy Valley had strong defense throughout the entire game, but just couldn't seem to get its bats working in the right direction.
   "They threw us out of whack," said Happy Valley coach Karri Killen. "We still played well. We couldn't find a hole today and made good plays. We just couldn't stop them all."
   The Lady Warriors were playing without catcher Mandy Byrd, who had a death in her family. Kortney Goulds and Alicia Dick rotated mound and catching duty for the squad.
   Both teams opened up the game on a defensive note going three up and three down for the first inning.
   The Lady Devils got their bats rolling in the second inning with hits from Wendy Woods and Rachel Edwards, but Happy Valley backed it up and kept the game scoreless through two.
   After another three Lady Warriors were sent back to the dugout, Unicoi County brought its guns behind a packed crowd.
   A walk to Kelly Lingerfelt and a Jenny Peterson single set up a huge two-run Danielle Huskins triple to light the scoreboard for the first time of the evening. Beth Haun followed up with an RBI single to give the Lady Devils a 3-0 lead after the inning.
   The Lady Warriors got on base for the first time in the fourth inning after a walk to Goulds, but they couldn't capitalize on it.
   Happy Valley's defense picked up considerably through the fifth inning as the Lady Warriors kept themselves in the contest.
   Kate Powell got the maroon's only hit in the sixth inning, although Unicoi County's tough defense kept making the plays they needed to win the game.
   The Lady Devils returned an offensive prowess in the bottom of the sixth inning after a Stephanie Byrd single and stolen run from courtesy runner Emily Bennett.
   An RBI double from Elizabeth Weaver gave the blue and white a 5-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning.
   Happy Valley used a walk to Alicia Dick to get things started in the frame, but three solid catches in the field closed out the game in favor of the Lady Devils.
   Unicoi County coach Baxter was pleased to get off the field with the victory.
   "Their program has come along and they expect to win," he said. "It was two good teams playing with each other. I'm pleased with our performance."
   "This was a fun game," Killen said. "We did a good job catching and coming out pitching. It was 16-1 last year and we had one bad inning and everything went downhill. That's where the experience and growing up comes in."
   Haun tossed seven strikeouts in her one-hit outing on the mound. She believes the win will be a boost to the defending state champions.
   "We played great," said Haun. "We were focused and worked hard. It's going to give us more confidence, but we have to stay focused and take each game one at a time."
   The contest was Happy Valley's first loss of the season and it keeps Unicoi County's conference record without a blemish.